State and local officials are spreading the word: Deer are on the move this time of year.
According to Grundy County Sheriff Terry Marketti, so far this fall, deer have been particularly active in the county, as motorists have reported collisions.
"We haven't had any injury ones, but we have had numerous accidents," he said.
According to numbers released jointly by the Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Natural Resources, crashes involving deer in 2011 increased by just under 1,000 incidents from 2010, to 18,039 incidents. Fatalities involving deer decreased slightly, from 10 deaths in 2010 to 6 in 2011.
Two area counties made the top 10 list statewide for deer collisions for 2011 — Will County was fourth, with 422 collisions, and La Salle County came in 10th place, with 339.
Tim Schweizer, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said residents can see deer year-round in Illinois. However, they tend to be more visible this time of year because it's their mating season.
"As a consequence, we do see more chances of vehicle and deer crashes during the fall," he said.
He said deer are most active during the early morning hours and early evening hours. IDOT and DNR statistics backed this — they show 75 percent of crashes occurred on rural roads and about 71 percent of crashes took place at twilight or night.
Schweizer said drivers should be aware that deer typically move in groups.
"Generally, if you see a deer, there are probably more in the same area — you're more likely to see several deer," he said. "Be alert if you see one deer, there are likely more nearby."
Motorists should take extra caution when they're in wooded areas with nearby sources of water, Schweizer advised, as deer tend to move near waterways. He said it's best for drivers to exercise caution in those types of areas.
He added if they do see a deer, they can take action to get it to move off of the roadway.
"If you see deer standing in the road, come to a stop, honk your horn," he said. "They'll move around. Definitely slow down in areas that are good deer habitat because deer are on the move."
Marketti echoed Scheweizer's comments, noting that drivers should be aware of their surroundings and mindful of deer.
"Be careful, because they can come out of anywhere," he said. "There are certain areas that are more heavily populated than not, but we're seeing them everywhere."
While collisions can be unavoidable, Marketti said motorists can sometimes lessen the situation by how they react to hitting the deer. He said that drivers who are unable to stop in time should do what they can to come to a stop safely. He said some injuries occur from vehicles driving into other vehicles or jerking to avoid the deer that leads to over-correcting and flipping a vehicle.
"If you hit it, you just have to ride it out," he said. "Over-correcting is the biggest cause of trouble."
He reminded residents that if there is more than $500 damage, injuries or a deceased deer involved in a crash, they should report it to local law enforcement.
While many people in the area are familiar with driving and the possibility of encountering deer, he said they can be a serious threat to safety.
"We've had fatalities before with drivers and passengers, so we just ask them to be aware at this time of year," he said.